Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Death - Marcus Aurelius

One of the themes that Marcus Aurelius returned to again and again was death.  He cautioned people that death will continually wipe the slate clean:
In sum, remember this, that within a very little while, both thou and he shall both be dead, and after a  little while more, not so much as your names and memories shall be remaining. 
Don't worry too much, time will move on.  (Or as Heinlein said, "Time wounds all heels".)  Aurelius also said that you shouldn't worry too much about the prospect of death:
Not as though thou hadst thousands of years to live. Death hangs over thee: whilest yet thou livest, whilest though mayest, be good.
Which doesn't mean that you shouldn't prepare:
Thou art now ready to die, and yet hast thou not attained to that perfect simplicity: thou art yet subject to many troubles and perturbations; not yet free from all fear and suspicion of external accidents; nor yet either so meekly disposed towards all men, as thou shouldest; or so affected as one, whose only study and only wisdom is, to be just in all his actions.
Sometimes he's a little bit bleak:
Within a very little while, thou wilt be either ashes, or a sceletum [skeleton]; and a name perchance; and perchance, not so much as a name. And what is that but an empty sound, and a rebounding echo?
If I had a bunch of money that I didn't know what to do with, I'd put that last quote on a billboard in Hollywood.  At one point, while reading this, I though to myself that Stoicism seems like an old man's philosophy.  Clearly there was lots of thought of death, and how people should prepare for it.  It's easy to think of Marcus Aurelius sitting at a campfire while on campaign and contemplating death. 

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